Few studies have evaluated survival of juvenile salmon over long river reaches in the Columbia River and information regarding the survival of sockeye salmon at lower Columbia River dams is lacking. To address these information gaps, the U.S. Geological Survey was contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate the possibility of using tagged fish released in the Mid-Columbia River to assess passage and survival at and downstream of McNary Dam. Using the acoustic telemetry systems already in place for a passage and survival study at McNary Dam, fish released from the tailraces of Wells, Rocky Reach, Rock Island, Wanapum, and Priest Rapids Dams were detected at McNary Dam and at the subsequent downstream arrays. These data were used to generate route-specific survival probabilities using single-release models from fish released in the Mid-Columbia River.
We document trends in passage and survival probabilities at McNary Dam for yearling Chinook and sockeye salmon and juvenile steelhead released during studies in the Mid-Columbia River. Trends in the survival and passage of these juvenile salmonid species are presented and discussed. However, comparisons made across years and between study groups are not possible because of differences in the source of the test fish, the type of acoustic tags used, the absence of the use of passive integrated transponder tags in some of the release groups, differences in tagging and release protocols, annual differences in dam operations and configurations, differences in how the survival models were constructed (that is, number of routes that could be estimated given the number of fish detected), and the number and length of reaches included in the analysis (downstream reach length and arrays). Despite these differences, the data we present offer a unique opportunity to examine the migration behavior and survival of a group of fish that otherwise would not be studied. This is particularly true for sockeye salmon because little information is available about their survival as they pass hydroelectric dams in the lower Columbia River.
Collecting information on fish released in the Mid-Columbia River, as well as on fish released 8 kilometers upstream of McNary Dam, allowed us to evaluate similarities and differences in passage and survival probabilities. In general, juvenile salmonids released in the Mid-Columbia River and detected at and downstream of McNary Dam showed trends in passage and survival probabilities that were similar to fish released 8 kilometers upstream of McNary Dam. This suggests that increased migration time or length of migration had little effect on behavior and survival of Mid-Columbia River released juvenile salmonids detected at McNary Dam.